Over the past few years we have seen an uptick in Jewish music being shared across social networks. A few years ago the Maccabeats came out with a winning formula of Jeiwssh related lyrics to a top ten hit. And the visual was stunning! This has now become a yearly new Hanukkah tradition: groups of harmonizing young Jews releasing seriously Jewish, yet seriously danceable, songs for the Festival of Lights. The Maccabeats, scored more than 6 million hits on YouTube with a song about flipping potato latkes and have done it again with a boppy reggae tune. “Miracle” explores the spiritual meaning of Hanukkah, which commemorates the successful revolt led by Judah Maccabee against an ancient king who tried to quash Judaism. 1.6 million views is pretty good.

The Fountainheads, an Israeli ensemble has some quirky Jewish cover of the 2010 World Cup anthem — garnered nearly 2 million YouTube hits. For Hanukkah, the Fountainheads wrote “Light Up The Night,” a hip hop/gospel tribute to religious freedom, with both English and Hebrew lyrics. It already has over 490,000 views

Musicians like Jeff Klepper and the late Debbie Friedman — who brought folk and other contemporary music into the synagogue — felt they had to justify their departure from tradition. With the Maccabeats, “there’s no apologizing,” It’s as if they’re saying: We’re so comfortable with being Jewish that we don’t really have to think about it. The Maccabeats are all students or graduates from Yeshiva University in New York City. Yeshiva students, who tend to practice a modern Orthodox form of Judaism, study secular subjects and Jewish law.

Maccabeats director Immanuel Shalev, now in law school, said he and his friends were a “nerdy Jewish a capella group” four years ago. “Candlelight” brought in offers to sing all over the world — from megachurches in Texas to a Jewish school in Hong Kong. The Maccabeats’ ode to latkes — a takeoff of British pop star Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” — caught on in part because the melody gets stuck in your head. But for Jews, Shalev said, the song hits more chords. “It can be difficult to be a Jew on Christmas,” he said. “And when you have something to rally around as a Jew, it can be really exciting.” That happened on national television in 1994, Kligman said, when comedian Adam Sandler sang “The Hanukkah Song” on “Saturday Night Live,” listing celebrities that many people didn’t know were Jewish. Emerging Jewish groups today can thank Sandler, Kligman said. “That really carved out a space for people to be excited and to celebrate being Jewish,” he said. “It used to be that you were proud to be Jewish, but you kept it in your back pocket.”

At the invitation of Hasidic reggae rapper Matisyahu — a Jewish musical phenomenon in his own right — they turned out an a capella version of his “Miracle.” The song refers to the miracle of the Hanukkah story: when the victorious Jews reclaimed the temple in Jerusalem, they had enough oil to light their lamp for one night but it lasted for eight.

The Fountainheads see their last video’s success as a bit of a miracle, and have also been invited to perform in venues around the world. Like the Maccabeats, they began singing together as a diversion. The group spends most of their days studying Jewish and secular subjects at Ein Prat Academy, a Jerusalem school that bridges the year between army service and college. An Ein Prat teacher noticed that many of his students had musical talent, and suggested they make a video. Rewriting pop songs for the Jewish holidays, they made videos for Hanukkah, Purim and Passover, and then struck Internet gold with “Dip Your Apple” for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. And though many of the videos are shot to maximize goofiness — the Rosh Hashanah one includes “Angry Birds” and a mock battle between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker — the Fountainheads are also hoping to deliver a message. “We do our best to present a new Israeli-Jewish identity,” said Shani Lachmish, a lead Fountainhead singer who studies Jewish philosophy and drama therapy, “one that transcends divisions and highlights the things we all share in common.”

But there’s got to be some competitive spirit, right? Both the Fountainheads and the Maccabeats are sending their Hanukkah videos into cyberspace at almost exactly the same time. Who will get the most hits? There’s no competition, both groups insisted, because they?re trying to promote the same idea. “Adhering to your faith and tradition is something that doesn’t have to be old and archaic,” Shalev said. “You can take something modern and infuse it with Jewish belief.”.

Last month Sara Rice posted this about Josh Nelson Project: One Shabbat a month, The Josh Nelson Project invaded our service, turning on our head our understanding of what praying could sound like. Hearing 200 of your peers singing “Halle-lu” together to a four-piece rock band under a perfect Boston summer night sky? Yeah, that’ll convince you there’s something to this Judaism thing that’s worth coming back for. It felt exciting and special and moving and It. Was. Awesome…..I might be a little starry-eyed. And when he gets here – after I get done singing with him – I hope I get the chance to thank him for bringing excitement to Jewish life, which had such a profound effect on me, and in turn (I hope), my friends and the Twin Cities Jewish community.

Rehearsing in his basement recording studio, Rick Recht looks every bit the rocker with his retro T-shirt, worn jeans and medium-brown hair tucked behind his ears.His left foot taps the beat while he strums an acoustic guitar and sings in … Hebrew? Recht’s music, recorded in English and punctuated by Hebrew, is contemporary Jewish rock. Referred to in some circles as the “Jewish Dave Matthews,” Recht and his band tour nationwide, delivering about 150 performances a year. They get fan mail and autograph requests. One concert photo shows teenage boys who have decorated their bare chests to read “Rick Recht Rules!”
“We want to give (fans) the opportunity to show their Jewish pride and let their friends share it,” Recht says.
Recht, 43, lives in the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield. He was raised by an Orthodox mother and a Reform father, practicing in a Conservative congregation. But Recht drifted from Judaism in college and began a career as a secular rock musician.Back at home, he was giving guitar lessons to a young woman who convinced him to be a songleader at a Jewish day camp she directed. That woman is now his wife, and they have two young children.
“I had a life epiphany,” Recht said of his time at the camp. He loved working with children and began writing and performing songs with a Jewish message. His work appealed to young people because of its pop sound.
Driven to share music He recorded the “Tov” compact disc in 1999. By 2000, he was on tour almost the whole summer, often playing for summer camps and youth groups.